China sets eyes on fostering new quality productive forces to accelerate growth
Published: Mar 07, 2024 05:32 PM
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A view of the Lujiazui area in Shanghai Photo: VCG

A view of the Lujiazui area in Shanghai Photo: VCG

At the ongoing two sessions, the development of new quality productive forces and digital economy are the hot topics. 

Seven years ago, the Government work report first proposed "speeding up the development of the digital economy." Since then, the digital economy has become an important engine for China's green transformation and a new driver of economic growth. In September last year, new quality productive forces theory was initiated to promote China's high-quality development.

For a long time, the definition of productivity has been the ability of humans to conquer and transform nature. The massive gains in productivity caused by Industrial Revolution led to huge resource consumption and waste emissions, resulting in multiple global problems. Therefore, it is necessary to redefine the connotation of productivity to ensure human sustainability and the coexistence of humanity and the nature.

New quality productive forces are the ability of humans to adapt to and utilize nature, a capacity that follows the principles of symbiosis and harmony between humans and nature, continuously advancing civilization and enhancing public welfare. New quality productive forces emphasize the reliance on scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations to achieve resource recycling and conservation, optimize resource management, and effectively promote the development of productivity in the process of transitioning to the ecological civilization.

From a theoretical perspective in viewing productivity, the development of new quality productive forces must involve cultivating new quality laborers and developing new quality ecological, digital, and industrial productivity to imbue labor materials with new quality connotations. In the current green transformation, through the application of technological innovations, transforming and upgrading traditional industries, and promoting the integration of the digital economy and the real economy to create digital industrial clusters.

The world is experiencing a wave of technological revolution and a new industrial revolution, with emerging information technology and digital transformation reshaping the economic landscape. It has become a consensus to promote the development of new quality productive forces through technological innovation. Undoubtedly, the digital economy has become the "fulcrum" for developing new quality productive forces, and it is also the core content of the development of new quality productive forces.

The digital economy uses data as means of production, modern information networks and intelligent algorithm as labor tools, digital industrialization as the foundation for development, and industrial digitalization as application scenarios to promote a new economic form that facilitates long-term sustainable development. The rise of the digital economy can lead to the restructuring of production factors, the reshaping of the geopolitical economic structure, and the reconstruction of the global geopolitical landscape, profoundly changing the way humans live and develop.

A report from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology revealed that the scale of China's digital economy is likely to reach 70.8 trillion yuan ($9.8 trillion) in 2025. With the rapid advancement of digital technology, the continuous expansion of the integration of digital reality, and the acceleration of the integration of digital intelligence, the digital economy will become a new driving force for economic growth and a core element in the cultivation of new quality productive forces.

Innovation, green development and intelligence are the most significant characteristics of the digital economy. 

The digital economy is an innovative economy. The resources allocated by the digital economy are more concentrated on knowledge and technological innovation. The scope of innovation subjects has diversified. The digital economy is a green economy. Scientific development and the specific application of technology are increasingly shifting toward ecologicalization. The digital economy is an intelligent economy, where algorithm proves to be the key. Through algorithms and AI, the digital economy allocates resources and driving the development of an intelligent economy.

The digital economy provides us with a fulcrum and entry point for developing new quality productive forces. As the contemporary primary productive force and green productive force, new quality productive forces are indispensable to usher in robust future development. By promoting the development of the digital economy, we can drive climate governance, ecological protection, economic development, cultural prosperity, technological innovation, and social harmony.

For the government, it is essential to develop efficient and collaborative digital governance, formulate policies to support the high-quality development of the digital economy, and establish a fair and standardized digital governance ecosystem. The government should help build smart cities and digital villages, nurturing new business models, and injecting great vitality into the economy.

The author is a professor at the Institute for Sustainability of Huzhou University and a researcher at the Budapest Centre for Long-term Sustainability.